Sunday, January 06, 2008

Guerilla Birding

As part of my resolution to do more bird blogging, I feel it is necessary to let everyone know what "guerilla birding" is.

First you need a cool tshirt with some marxist hero on it. Just kidding. Ironic though, that the man's likeness makes millions of dollars for capitalists...

Ok,
Back to the subject at hand, guerilla birding is the art of birding where there are not supposed to be birders. Well, birders should be where the birds are, but that doesn't necessarily jive with the current concept of what a birder is to the nonbirding public.

Ya get me?

So I did me a little retention-pond-in-the-Sam's-club-parking-lot guerilla birding Sunday...

Great stuff too, almost beat Lake Hollingsworth, a Great Florida Birding Trail hot spot. I started my quick spin to the local Sam's Club with a post from the BirdBrains Mailing list about a Greater Scaup siting fresh in my mind. The guy who reported the siting had seen four birds New Year's Day, and three on Wednesday. I didn't know how long of a time four days is for scaup, but Saturday's observations of lesser scaup at Hollingsworth definately left me pleased but not satisfied. I wondered at the time if I should have sped down to Sam's Saturday for the Aythya Trifecta: Lesser Scaup, Ring Neck Duck, and then the grande finale of Greater Scaup...
Ah, if that could only be my worst regret...

So, Saturday the birds had been slow when I first set out, and I missed several "gimmee" locals, Cardinals, and Mockingbirds being some of them. Sunday started looking the same, but I did get palm warbler and northern Mockingbird right off the bat. Then male Boat tailed grackles started scolding me and I started to pedal hard. It was late afternoon (5pm local), and I didn't have much daylight remaining. I did pause for a minute to confirm a Ring billed gull and to have a looksee at an excellent flock of Killdeer and some more palm warblers located in a cowpasture on the east side of the road. When I got back underway, a floridified version of a Red Shouldered hawk flew overhead and perched atop a light pole. I also noticed that there are several shallow ponds just out of view of the cars on the road in this particular cowpasture. If I had a spotting scope I could have had a better look at what was going on, but I still managed to add Great Egret and Great blue Heron to the list. I also noted some Turkey vultures looking like they were headed toward the landfill. I immediately added European Starlings, Common Grackles, Sandhill Cranes, and mourning Doves to my list When I got to the Sam's Club retention pond. A quick glance through my binoculars sent my heart into a skitter, without a doubt there were diving ducks present, and something else.!?!

I had a choice to make, high side, or low side, sunny side or shadow side. If I took the high side, I would be looking into the sun, but would be closer, most of the birds were in the shadow of the pond anyway, but still. Low side, with the sun at my back would mean more work for the view, but would also mean more stealth, more stealth means more time to look at the birds.

Ok, my inner hunter won, low stealthy side chosen over high closer side. It was stunning, there were over a dozen HOODED MERGANSERS!!! Now this pond ain't that old, so it's wonderful to think that they have found it already... Other birds occured singly, the blue heron, the glossy ibis, the snowy egret, the tricolored heron. Two Double crested cormorants lazily flapped toward the sun, ugly and showy all at the same time. And then there were the three scaup. I had to stare for a little while, trying my best to make them into Lessers, but every mark they had was just enough on the Greater side to give me hope. The head was just the right shape, the wings had just enough white extending to the primaries, the top to bottom contrast was just enough, the bills were just wide enough, and the bill nail was just big enough. Even the green sheeny heads were just enough and never changed, so I remained convinced that I had seen Greater Scaup for the first time in Imperial Polk County. Yeah!

And then as if to add a little butter to my grits, what should saunter my way but a Spotted Sandpiper, another Polk County first. That brings my total county list to 114 species so far! Hehe, not bad for a part timer, course, I have been juggling the idea of a jersey or something to wear while I bike-n-bird guerilla style. Of course I would need sponsors, team mates, and fans! Maybe we should start with bumperstickers first.

GB HOYT,
Signing out!

PS, Here is the Map
the Sam's Club pond is on Lakeland Highlands Rd at the Polk Parkway.
PSS,
if you can't click the link above, the actual address for the Sam's Club is:
3530 Lakeland Highlands R
Lakeland, FL 33803

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